Golf just became a lot cooler. And golfers are no longer a group of middle-aged men looking for an excuse to get out of the house for 4 hours a week.
Tiger Woods introduced fitness to golf, and since then, golfers on the PGA tour look more like fitness models than golfers! But naturally, he didn’t do that for the looks.
He figured that golfers are athletes, and the golf swing is a highly athletic movement. The best players in the world have a body that supports their powerful golf swing!
He also took the distance game to a new level. Paired with new technology means that golfers have never hit it longer than today.
So it’s no wonder that the quest to drive a ball far has found its own competition. While Long Drive competitions have been around for a while, it’s really just during the last couple of years that it found mainstream popularity.
Thanks to figures like Kyle Berkshire, who documents his progress on youtube, many more people have gotten into driving the ball miles.
Let’s have a closer look at Long Drive competitions and everything you need to know about them.
Some of the first long-drive events were held in conjunction with the PGA Tour as early as 1074. While the equipment was nowhere near as modern as what’s being used today, there were still some impressive distances being hit!
The official World Long Drive Championships were established by Volvik in 1976.
The game really started to change in 2007, when 400+ yards drives became the norm. This was also when the venues changed.
While long drive competitions were held on golf courses back in the day, they’re now held either at football stadiums or similar venues that allow for longer drives, without having any obstacles in the way and fairways that are long, wide, and open.
As you can imagine, technology has changed the game of golf and long drive competitions in particular.
Nowadays, people have specialized long drive drivers who have a longer shaft and less loft. You’ll also see them tee up the ball higher than recreational or even professional players.
This is so they can hit up at the ball more extensively. Combine this with the lower-lofted drivers, and you get the best launching conditions for your driver!
In the most common format you’ll see, each player will have 6 balls and 2 minutes to play the longest drive.
The landing area is pre-defined and anything left or right of that area is considered out of bounds.
In a heads-up format, you compete against another player. Whoever hits it the furthers within the 2-minute limit wins and proceeds to the next round.
While the maximum length of the driver is the same as in regular golf competitions (48 inches), long drive competitors typically use it.
Having a driver that is that long makes it easier to hit, but you get rewarded with a higher clubhead speed.
In professional play, as you see on the PGA tour, accuracy is weighted to be more important than distance alone. You won’t have 6 balls to hit, unlike the long drive competitions!
Now the exciting part. Technique, as in regular golf play, varies a lot from player to player.
Kyle Berkshire, who currently holds the long-drive world record, for example, used to stamp and sway with both feet before a swing to really transfer his weight effectively during the back and downswing.
Something you see to be very common at any long-driver competition is that these guys are built like bears.
It’s still a game of finesse, but to produce these 150 mph clubhead speeds, you need the physics and strength to do so.
As a comparison, an excellent recreational golfer swings the driver at around 90 mph. The PGA tour average is about 100-110 mph.
This should give you a good idea of what forces are at play to drive a ball 400+ yards.
What To Do Next
If you’re already into golf and now want to start piping your driver as they do during the long drive competitions, you’ll need to hit the gym and get your technique dialed in.
After all, you’re trying to manage a 1.6-inch diameter golf ball with a 2.8-inch wide golf club. If your clubface is off even just a couple of degrees, you’ll send the ball flying into another fairway or, worse even, the lake next to your fairway.
As a reward, you’ll be able to drive the ball further and have shorter, easier shots into the green. Nothing allows you to shot lower scores as quickly as being closer to the hole, especially as a beginner.
Also, consider upgrading your set to a modern one. Technology really has come a long way, and a modern driver will be much more forgiving than your grandpa’s old set you’ve been playing.